Tuesday, July 20, 11:02am
By Mark Zuckerman
CINCINNATI -- Though he continues to field inquiries from opposing general managers, the Washington Nationals Mike Rizzo is not actively shopping potential trade candidates Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham or Matt Capps in the final weeks before the July 31 non-waiver deadline.
According to sources familiar with Rizzos thinking, the Nationals GM is not looking to deal any of those players despite serious interest from several clubs. When approached by teams about Dunn, Willingham and Capps, Rizzo continues to ask for a significant return, usually big-league-ready players.
Hes getting plenty of calls about those guys, but hes asking for a lot back, one source said. Hes not the one initiating any of the talks.
Several clubs, most notably the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels, have been aggressively pursuing Dunn in recent weeks, hoping to land the veteran slugger for the stretch run. But with the 30-year-old due to become a free agent at seasons end, opposing GMs arent willing to give up major-league-ready talent in exchange for a two-month rental.
Compounding the matter is Dunns insistence he doesnt want to become a designated hitter, which means those American League teams seeking his services now would have little chance of re-signing him over the winter.
Rizzo, though, still sees Dunn as a key piece of the Nationals immediate future at first base. The two sides have been trying to work out a contract extension, but the length and terms of such a deal continue to be a sticking point.
Dunn, who currently ranks second in the NL in home runs (22) and slugging (.575) and third in OPS (.950), is seeking a contract comparable to the sports top offensive players (more than three years, more than 15 million per year, according to sources familiar with the talks). The Nationals are reluctant to hand out a four-year contract to a player already in his 30s.
Though the two sides will continue to talk in the days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline, theres a good chance no deal will be struck before seasons end, and Dunn will test the free agent waters to see if another club is willing to give him the contract he seeks. If the Nationals offer Dunn arbitration and he signs with another team, they would receive two draft picks as compensation.
Willingham and Cappss names havent been linked to as many rumors as Dunns, but Rizzo has fielded a number of calls about both players. Capps, in particular, has attracted contending teams in need of bullpen help.
Rizzo, though, doesnt appear interested in moving either player unless hes blown away with an offer. Both Willingham (who ranks third in the NL with a .404 on-base percentage) and Capps (who ranks fourth in the NL with 23 saves) remain under the Nationals control through 2011, though each stands to earn a sizeable raise this winter through the arbitration process.
Mark Zuckerman covered the Nationals for The Washington Times from 2005-09. In addition to regular work this season for CSNwashington.com, he also covers the team at www.natsinsider.com. Email Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.